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Council Compromise On Squires Road Project Sends Developer Back To Drawing Board

Josh James
Squires Road project opponents watch as council hears testimony and debates project for seven hours.

The Urban County Council spent more than seven hours hearing testimony and debating a controversial Squires Road development before coming to a hard-fought compromise Tuesday night.

The debate over Ball Homes’ proposed development of a peninsula jutting out into Kentucky American Reservoir #4, also known as Lake Ellerslie, was by turns tedious and testy - with council members bargaining into the wee hours over the project’s density and the buffer separating it from the water’s edge.

Opponents donning eagle stickers packed council chambers and overflow areas, as they delivered a thousand opposition letters to the council. Nearby residents and other concerned citizens have argued the proposed 90-acre project comprised of single and multi-family homes, apartments, townhomes, and a middle school would throttle traffic in the neighborhood and pose environmental risks.

As the evening wore on, passions flared both in the audience and around the horseshoe.

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Opposition attorney Nathan Billings thanks neighborhood residents ahead of the council vote.

"Shame on all of you for even considering this," one shouting attendee interrupted, exiting the room. "Shame on you."

Appearing exasperated by the end of the night, District 7's Jennifer Scutchfield sniped at colleague Richard Maloney, accusing him of overlooking her constituents. Others lamented the lack of consensus as the group deadlocked over details.

"This is the very thing that I keep hoping doesn't happen when we're at these zone changes," council member Susan Lamb volunteered.

But just after midnight, the tense horse-trading led to a compromise, whittling the project down from 501 to 450 residential units and setting a mid-range buffer of 50 feet surrounding the lakeside property. Earlier motions had toyed with an entirely new zoning designation, but the final product left the recommended R3/R4 designations intact - meaning the developer remains free to build the originally proposed mix of residential buildings.

"I wouldn't call this a win. I wouldn't call it a loss," opponent Wendy Henry said. "I would call it some progress based on where we started, but where we started wasn't great."

Ball Homes Attorney Bill Lear had warned the buffer would kill the project, but told reporters afterward the developer would attempt to salvage it.

"The bigger impact is the buffer, which does with the site constraints make that difficult, but we'll put our heads together and see what we can do," he said. "They basically split the baby."

The vote overrode an earlier planning commission decision siding with the developer.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.